What federal prosecutors are saying about the increase in prostitution, particularly with out-of-state connections, comes as no surprise to neighbors who have set up pickets to drive away prostitutes.
Julie Sorenson, a South Central City resident, says that, in recent months, prostitution has increased in the south State Street area. Prostitutes also appear to be younger, some as young as 14 years, and many of their pimps drive cars with out-of-state license plates."We've had three new cars show up with California license plates," said Sorenson, who believes the expensive cars belong to pimps who control rings of prostitutes.
Resident Mary Bishop said expensive cars with Texas and Virginia license plates have been seen cruising area streets at night.
Neighbors began picketing the street between 1300 South and 1700 South on Tuesday night and plan to continue through July. When they see illicit activity, they report it. They say Salt Lake police have been helpful.
"We want to get them out of our neighborhoods and push them away from our children and our community," Sorenson said.
Wednesday night, about 20 protesters were on State Street carrying signs that read "Does your wife know where you are?" and "Prostitution is against the law." Sorenson said two prostitutes stationed at a convenience store Wednesday night soon left after she stood near them with a placard.
She is concerned about what children in the area see and hear from the prostitution traffic. Bishop says women and girls simply walking in the area are often propositioned by passers-by.
This is the second time in the past two months that the neighbors in the area have organized pickets to combat prostitution. In April, business owners and residents in the Major Street area set up a picket that helped move prostitutes from that area.
The residents' action doesn't come without some resistance. Protesters are often verbally harassed by prostitutes and pimps. Wednesday night, picketers were verbally accosted by one man. Police were called, and the man was arrested.
Bishop, who organized the Major Street picket, said that the neighborhood action, which includes taking photographs of transactions between prostitutes and their "johns," does pay off.
"If it doesn't look like we care, they think it is fair game," she said, describing the activities as "peer pressure without being obnoxious."
She said that if the problem isn't confronted on State Street, it often spills over into nearby residential areas.